Kamloops drop-in centre closes after homeless volunteer tests positive for COVID-19 | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops drop-in centre closes after homeless volunteer tests positive for COVID-19

The Loop drop-in centre at 405 Tranquille Road in Kamloops is pictured in this Google Street View image.
December 18, 2020 - 4:24 PM

A Kamloops homeless man has tested positive for COVID-19 and a drop-centre for the homeless has temporarily closed because of it.

Glenn Hilke, organizer and facilitator of the Lived Experience Community-Life and Peer Skills Program which oversees The Loop, a drop-in homeless centre on Tranquille Road in Kamloops, says the man was volunteering at the centre last week before he tested positive for COVID-19.

So far, COVID-19 tests among staff and volunteers have come back negative, but Hilke said the individual was in contact with many people and is still awaiting more test results. The centre has temporarily closed.

“This was not like a casual contact and we have another agency that we work with on Saturday, the Out of the Cold program, and he was volunteering with them as well,” Hilke said.

He doesn’t know where the person caught COVID-19 and noted the homeless population has been following safety protocols well.

Hilke said Interior Health called him Dec. 16 and confirmed the man had the disease and asked if Hilke knew where he was.

He said the person is now self-isolating at a hotel location run by ASK Wellness Society. ASK executive director Bob Hughes said he could not confirm the location of the individual or how many people may have used the isolation spaces during the pandemic.

READ MORE: 'Our staff are beaten up:' ASK Wellness wants national approach to overdose crisis

There are five sites in Kamloops, a total of 140 spaces, where homeless individuals may self isolate if the contract COIVD-19, according to B.C. Housing.

Interior Health will have a COVID-19 testing unit on site today, Dec. 18, Hilke said, adding he reached out to the chief medical officer yesterday because of the challenge of finding homeless individuals who have tested positive for the disease.

“The problem becomes doing contact tracing, (it's) hard if not impossible,” he said. “To expect a person who doesn’t have a cell phone, or a computer or internet, to go online and register or even call 8-1-1 to go there and register and say ‘do they have their care card?’ All of that is ridiculous, so we have to make accommodations to this community of people who are right up there with the most vulnerable in long-term care facilities.”

“If Interior Health tests at our centre and sends the requests because they can’t contact that person directly, but know that this person will come back to our centre to get their results, that’ll happen. That’s an efficient way to do things," Hilke said.

The drop-in centre is still offering takeaway meals and Hilke will continue to conduct the Kamloops COVID Meal Train

Pending staff and volunteer test results, The Loop will reopen next Monday with additional protocols in place including temperature checks and will request contact information and names from clients, Hilke said.

"When our medical health officer believes outreach testing is required, we have capacity to go in with mobile testing and have done so at various locations," according to a statement from Interior Health.

"Interior Health doesn't provide specific details about individual cases unless there are broader exposure risks. If there is a broader risk to other individuals or the community, Interior Health will issue a public notification. If our medical health officers deem it necessary to issue a public notice, the exposures are listed here. Anyone at risk of exposure to any case will be contacted directly by IH public health contact tracers," the statement reads.

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